With all the flowers that are now in bloom, itís no wonder there are more insects. The summer phlox is just starting to open and they are a big draw for insects. Iíve been walking around the beds of phlox at dusk each evening to see if I can spot any Hummingbird moths. I havenít seen one until tonight when I counted eleven. There are several species of these little fast fliers that are also known as Hawk moths. Some are no longer than a bumble bee, while others are three times larger. They are fun to watch as they approach the flowering phlox in hummingbird fashion, hovering in front of each blossom while inserting their long proboscis to collect the nectar.
The flowers have attracted a few Monarch butterflies. They seem to prefer the different milkweed and butterfly weed in the garden, but they really have a liking for the large zinnias. Iím hoping that they are laying their eggs on some of the plants in the valley. Iíve been waiting for years to see these beautiful orange butterflies in large numbers like I used to see them.
The pretty yellow cone flowers have spread across the meadow and sway on long stems in the breeze. There will be lots more seed to spread around this fall, and Iím looking forward to collecting seed then. Itís the purple cone flowers that seem to be the butterfliesí favorite, though, and there are several different kinds to watch, like the little Silver-spotted skippers high atop the orange crowns of the purple coneflowers. There are a fair number of skippers this summer and several varieties to see around the flower gardens.
I canít remember a summer when I had so many Black and Yellow swallowtail butterflies visiting the flower gardens. They, too, like the purple cone flowers, but are most often seen around the zinnias. I always plant a double 100-foot row of giant, mixed colored zinnias just for them, and this year it really paid off. I counted 25 swallowtails at one time at the zinnia bed. They seem to make the flowers come alive because their large wings are always fluttering as they feed at the flower tops.
There are a couple of small butterflies that were very numerous last year but are rare this year, for some reason: common Sulphur and Cabbage butterflies. Maybe they just havenít shown up yet. There are still a lot of summer days left and lots of time for more butterflies.
Yet another small butterfly (about the same size as a Cabbage butterfly), the pretty Checkerspot, prefers open habitats such as prairies, stream sides and roadsides. Luckily, I have all three. These little orange beauties kinda remind me of their larger cousins, the fritillaries that are showing up in pretty good numbers. The rusty-orange and white-spotted Atlantis Fritillaries are definitely an eye catcher, and they add a lot to this already colorful summer. Whoís to say which butterfly is the most beautiful? Like any parent would feel about their children, I think they are all the most beautiful.
The past three nights Iíve been enjoying the cricket music. Crickets have been scarce until now. I havenít seen very many of these little black music makers while working in the gardens. Itís kinda strange with crickets the past several years. They used to start singing the second week of July.
Iím out sitting on the porch just after dark every night, taking in the cricket concert, and it just keeps getting better.
There are more grasshoppers in the tall grass than there were a week ago, and I think the birds are taking advantage of all the extra food. All the frogs, snakes, mammals and birds will have plenty to eat as long as there are lots of insects.
I found a two inch-long larva casting while working in a flower garden this morning. The goldfish-colored casting was under a rock that I moved. I had no idea what it would transform into so I put it in a jar with some dirt and a little grass over it and set it up on the bookshelf. I know there is something alive in there because it moved in my hand. It will be fun to see what emerges from the jar.
There hasnít been any rain here for a while, and a soaker would feel good. I know the flowers and butterflies would like it.
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